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Neutral Zone Wrap: Who's on the rebound?

by | Rotowire.com
  •  

The regular season is here. Hallelujah!

Hope you had a relaxing summer, one where absolutely nothing happened except for the anticipation of meaningful NHL action. OK, so maybe you moved to another country and got married. But even if those events took place in the last few months, then your sights must have remained locked on hockey.

You may have forgotten some material since the Blackhawks shocked the Bruins (and us) in Game 6 of the Cup Final. Hope you have perused the other site resources and articles and feel sufficiently caught up. But if you're craving one more piece to get you going, then you're in luck.

There's always room for improvement. Not only in your leagues but also for actual NHLers who are poised to step up their game. Here are a few hopefuls who may not be getting the most attention or may be maligned for recent indiscretions but could serve as fantasy gold. (NOTE: These individuals could end up depreciating in value but that would depend on uncontrollable factors or how you use them in your lineup. In other words, plan accordingly.)

(For other related examples, be sure to check out Jan Levine's sleepers article.)

Brad Boyes, F, Panthers: Posted very respectable numbers with the Islanders in 2012-13 (35 points in 48 games, including 13 on the power-play) but was probably pushed out due to a forward glut. On a relatively young Panther lineup, Boyes was brought aboard on a tryout basis and has seamlessly fit in on a line with Kris Versteeg and rookie Aleksander Barkov. Don't expect any eye-popping figures; somewhere in the 50-point range will suffice.

Jannik Hansen, F, Canucks: The recipient of a new four-year, $10 million contract will be asked to assume more responsibility. In his five-year career, the Danish winger has excelled as a shorthanded contributor and is slowly working his way as a dependable top-six forward (note the 27 in 47 last year). With Zack Kassian maintaining his penchant for on-ice stupidity, it would seem Hansen is firmly positioned as the second right winger on the Canucks' depth chart and a spot on one of the power-play units.

Jussi Jokinen, F, Penguins: Fine, so Jokinen became an immediate success (11 in 10) after arriving from Carolina in April. But it was presumed the Finn wouldn't be able to repeat this feat skating on the third or fourth unit. In training camp and exhibition action, he has displayed great chemistry with Evgeni Malkin and James Neal (including a hat-trick against Columbus). And it seems that anyone who teams up with that duo should be destined for something better than average. It's funny to think the Canes are still paying a quarter of Jokinen's salary as part of their giveaway sweepstakes.

Ryan Miller, G, Sabres: You might be surprised to see the 2010 Vezina winner listed in this category but Miller belongs here. His stats last season 'slipped' to a 17-17-5 record with a 2.81 GAA, mainly a factor of a fresh Sabres squad that finished last in the Northeast. Some of the media and fan pressure looks like it eventually affected Miller, although he kept his cool and proved to be Buffalo's best player on many nights. Fortunately, there are three factors working in his favor. First off, Miller will undoubtedly want to prove his detractors wrong and step up his game. Secondly, his long-term contract expires next summer and he will want to exhibit his top skills for a new deal. And finally, the starter from Vancouver 2010 will be motivated for Sochi in his bid to reclaim the #1 job for the US squad. (Jonathan Quick appears to be the current frontrunner.)

Sami Salo, D, Lightning: A lot more was expected of Salo after inking a deal with the Bolts before last season. After all, the now-39 year old has always been known for his cannon from the point. And although Tampa finished in the top-half of the league in power-play percentage (13th at 19%), he wasn't a major factor (seven PPPs, 17 overall) and only managed a shot per game (with a paltry two goals). With a season in the Sunshine State under his belt and no Vincent Lecavalier to hinder backline man-advantage opportunities, expect Salo to increase his frequency hitting the net and continue scaring the bejeezus out of opposing goalies.

Honorable mention: Justin Abdelkader, F, Detroit; Josh Bailey, F, NY Islanders; Colin Greening, F, Ottawa; Adam Larsson, D, New Jersey; Tim Thomas, G, Florida

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Player News
Niklas Backstrom
Elbow Could Sideline Backstrom For Start Of Season
Niklas Backstrom, G, MIN
7/8/2015
News: The agent for Niklas Backstrom (elbow) acknowledged that his client likely won't be ready to play at the start of training camp in September, Michael Russo of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports.
Analysis: Niklas Backstrom underwent surgery in May to address nerve damage in his right elbow, an injury that was so severe that it prevented him from moving two of his fingers during the Wild's first-round series against the Blackhawks. Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper had surpassed Backstrom as the Wild's two preferred goalies by that point, which likely would have made the 37-year-old a buyout candidate for the team had he been back to full health this summer. Instead, it looks like the Wild will have to wait until the start of the season to make a decision on Backstrom, with his placement on the team's long-term injured reserve list seemingly the most likely outcome. Regardless of what the Wild end up doing with Backstrom, don't expect him to see the ice with the parent club next season barring an injury to one of the top two netminders on the depth chart.

Justin Hodgman
Hodgman Signs With Blues
Justin Hodgman, C, ARI
7/8/2015
News: The Blues agreed to terms on a contract with Justin Hodgman on Tuesday. The details of the contract have not been released.
Analysis: Justin Hodgman will provide the Blues with some depth at forward, but likely won't spend much time in the NHL, unless St. Louis suffers a slew of injuries at center. The 27-year-old tallied 35 points in 62 games with AHL Portland in the Coyotes' organization in 2014-15.

Trevor van Riemsdyk
Van Riemsdyk Signs With Hawks
Trevor van Riemsdyk, D, CHI
7/8/2015
News: The Blackhawks signed Trevor van Riemsdyk to a two-year, $1.65 million contract extension on Tuesday, NHL.com reports.
Analysis: Van Riemsdyk, notched only one assist in 18 regular-season games with the Blackhawks last season, but impressed the team with his defensive responsibility at the back end. Unfortunately, he was the victim of some bad luck on the injury front, suffering a fractured left kneecap and then requiring wrist surgery before he finally returned to the Blackhawks midway through the Stanley Cup Finals. Now healthy, the 23-year-old will thus reprise his role as a depth blueliner for Chicago, with more regular ice time this year a plausible outcome if Johnny Oduya signs elsewhere as expected.

Vladimir Tarasenko
Blues Sign Tarasenko To Extension
Vladimir Tarasenko, RW, STL
7/8/2015
News: The Blues signed Vladimir Tarasenko to an eight-year, $60 million extension Tuesday, ESPN.com reports.
Analysis: Vladimir Tarasenko is coming off a breakout campaign in which he racked up 37 goals -- many of the breathtaking variety -- and 73 points in 77 games for the Blues, to go along with a plus-27 rating. Thanks to his lucrative extension, the 23-year-old winger is now under contract with the team through the 2022-23 season, at an annual cap hit of $7.5 million. The deal makes him the highest-paid member of the Blues, but if Tarasenko remains among the league's scoring leaders the next few several seasons, the contract will probably go down as a bargain.

Corban Knight
Knight Inks One-Year Deal With Panthers
Corban Knight, C, CGY
3:38 PM
News: Corban Knight signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Panthers on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Panthers are shallow at forward, so this signing provides them with some much needed depth up front. Corban Knight played in 58 AHL games last season, tallying 36 points over that span.

Garrett Wilson
Wilson Inks One-Year Deal With Panthers
Garrett Wilson, LW, FLA
3:34 PM
News: Garrett Wilson signed a one-year, two-way contract with the Panthers on Tuesday.
Analysis: The Panthers are shallow at forward, so re-signing Garrett Wilson will provide them with some much needed depth at wing. Wilson played in 71 games with AHL San Antonio in 2014-15, tallying 23 goals and 15 assists over that span.

Mikkel Boedker
Boedker Signs One-Year Deal
Mikkel Boedker, LW, ARI
11:52 AM
News: Mikkel Boedker signed a one-year, $3.75 million contract with the Coyotes on Tuesday, Sarah McLellan of the Arizona Republic reports.
Analysis: Mikkel Boedker was on pace to register his second straight 50-point season in 2014-15 with 14 goals and 14 assists through 45 games, but a ruptured spleen ended his campaign prematurely. He will likely return to his role on the Coyotes' first line during the upcoming season, and could be in line for a moderate breakout if he is able to stay healthy.

Nicklas Backstrom
Caps' Backstrom (Hip) Uncertain For Opening Night
Nicklas Backstrom, C, WAS
8:14 AM
News: Head coach Barry Trotz said "all indications" have Nicklas Backstrom (hip) skating by training camp, but it's "up in the air" as to whether he will be cleared to play at the start of the season, Alex Prewitt of The Washington Post reports.
Analysis: Nicklas Backstrom underwent successful arthroscopic hip surgery in late-May, but there have been rumblings since that he may not be cleared to play by opening night, including speculation from Backstrom himself that the timeframe for his recovery might extend into the start of the 2015-2016 season. Backstrom's health is the biggest question mark for the Capitals this offseason. and should he miss the start of the season, Evgeny Kuznetsov should see a significant boost in fantasy value. Similarly, the uncertainty surrounding Backstrom could send him sliding on draft day making him a better value pickup. Continue to monitor the situation as the offseason moves on.

Sonny Milano
Jackets' Milano Has Impressive Offseason
Sonny Milano, LW, CLB
7:24 AM
News: Sonny Milano added 15 pounds of muscle to his frame this offseason and feels that he can now both skate faster and shoot harder, the Columbus Dispatch reports. "Definitely one of the concerns last year was my weight and my strength, so I really focused on that this year," Milano said last week at the Jackets' development mini-camp. "I think when [training] camp comes along we'll see a difference this year."
Analysis: The 2014 16th overall pick is probably ticketed for AHL Lake Erie to open the season, even after the Jackets' cleared away some roster competition in the Brandon Saad deal, but Sonny Milano is intent on making the decision to send him down a difficult one. After scoring 22 goals and 68 points in 50 games last season for OHL Plymouth, the highly-skilled winger added five assists in 10 AHL games in his pro debut at the end of the regular season. It may take him a year or two to nail down a regular spot in the NHL lineup, but Milano figures to be a big part of a very bright future in Columbus.

Zach Boychuk
Canes' Boychuk Re-Signs For One Year
Zach Boychuk, C, CAR
7:11 AM
News: Zach Boychuk agreed to a one-year, two-way contract with the Hurricanes.
Analysis: The 25-year-old Zach Boychuk split 2014-15 between the NHL and AHL, tallying 30 combined points in 70 games, with just six of those coming in his 31 NHL appearances. He'll figures to compete for an NHL roster spot during training camp.

 
 
 
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